TALEBAN forces in Afghanistan claim to have captured a British military dog belonging to the SAS.
The insurgents said they took the dog, which they have named Colonel, about a month ago, during a battle with the British special forces.
They have released a video via e-mail of what is thought to be a chocolate-brown Belgian shepherd. The animal can be seen on a lead attached to a black harness mounted with what the Taleban said was a video camera.
In a statement, the terror group said the dog was being well looked after and enjoying a diet of chicken and beef kebabs. There have been no demands for a ransom to be paid.
Insurgent spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the animal was being looked after and was in good health. He added that the dog got separated from its andlers during a fierce firefight.
“Right now, we are keeping the dog and trying to look after him,” he said. “It is not like the local dogs which will eat anything and sleep anywhere. We have to prepare him proper food and make sure he has somewhere to sleep properly.”
He explained that meant making kebabs and providing blankets for its comfort.
“We haven’t decided what to do with it yet,” he said. “Maybe we will keep it and use it ourselves because it has been trained.”
Mujahid added that the military dog was being held in a “safe place” in Laghman, east of Kabul.
The Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan confirmed that one of its military dogs had gone missing during a mission in December. During a Pentagon briefing, the animal was confirmed to have belonged to British forces.
It is thought the dog was taken during an SAS mission about a month ago in Laghman province, to the east of the capital Kabul.
The operation is thought to have been the same that claimed the life of Captain Richard Holloway, of the Royal Engineers.
The 29-year-old, from County Durham, who reportedly served with the SAS, was killed as a result of enemy fire while on operations east of Kabul on 23 December.
He was described by his family as “an exceptional young man who embraced life to the full”.
A spokeswoman for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan confirmed that a military working dog had gone missing late last year during a mission.
However, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said: “We are not commenting on the nationality of the dog and we never comment on special forces.”
Military working dogs are used by troops in Afghanistan both for force protection and carrying out searches.
Former army officer and defence commentator Stuart Crawford said the handler of the dog now called Colonel would be devastated to have lost it.
He said: “Handlers and their dogs form very strong attachments, so no doubt he will be heartbroken.
“The Taleban are parading this dog on television as a sort of ‘Look how clever we are’ message.”
Mr Crawford, who served with the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, said he did not think the loss of the dog could become a “security risk”.
“I very much doubt that they will launch a special mission to rescue this dog,” he added.
He also pointed out it could become a positive story for the Taleban insurgents, if they handled the animal properly. “The one thing they cannot do is make that dog disappear,” he said.
“The best thing they can do to enhance the Taleban’s global PR is to treat it well, as they are saying they are doing – feeding it well and making sure it has a comfy bed.”
He added: “The fact that most westerners are sentimental about their animals will not be lost on them.”
Military service dogs, which are trained by the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, are used to sniff out bombs and also in special forces raids as protection and to help subdue suspects.
Taking dogs into homes during raids is controversial in Afghanistan because they are considered unclean by many Muslims.
Last year, it emerged four dogs – two labradors, a springer spaniel cross and a Belgian shepherd – had died working alongside their army handlers in Helmand province since March 2011.